Rice Band, mid-50’s

I’m feeling kind of directionless today, so what better than a drum major to march me right out of my pre-Thanksgiving funk?

I came across a huge collection of band materials from the Holmes McNeely era (1951-67) a while back when my colleagues were rearranging things in the Woodson. This is a large and well organized collection but this batch was undated. Judging by what’s visible in the backgrounds I’d say it’s about 1957, but I’m not going to go to the mat on that. I know I have a lot of readers who are interested in the band, but I’ll confess right up front that I find the backgrounds even more interesting. So that’s a win-win, I guess.

I was really surprised to discover that the band has always practiced in luxurious facilities. I don’t know where this is, though.

And of course they spent a lot of time practicing outside:

I also actually did some research and found this article about the new style the band adopted for the 1957 season. I don’t know enough about marching bands to know how big a change this is:

Here they are on their way to the stadium on game day:


Extra Bonus: Think you’ve got some fancy shoes? I’d be very surprised if they’re fancier than my granddaughter’s new boots. (Yes, those are silver sequins.)

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15 Responses to Rice Band, mid-50’s

  1. Gloria Tarpley '81 says:

    Thank you, Melissa, for all your blog entries — love them all! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  2. C Kelly says:

    If anyone is interested, YouTube has a video of the ’37 Cotton Bowl game in which Rice played Colorado whose celebrated player was Whizzer White. It’s a home movie shot by a Colorado fan, but it’s still interesting, especially because Rice won.

    I mention the video because there’s a brief half-time clip of the Rice band, including the drum major who leans so far back as he struts onto the field that his grenadier-style hat almost touches the ground.

  3. Very interesting. I’m reasonably willing to believe that the photo was taken in the basement of the “new section” of Hanszen (as mentioned in the Thresher article) which would account for the relative spotlessness of the pipes and columns. It would have been brand new around then. When I was there it was a grotty so-called “coffeehouse” called B & P, for “breadsticks and pomegranates,” mostly used for storage.

    Buddy Brock was a well-regarded “society” bandleader well up into the 1990s.

    • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

      The B&P was originally in the attic above section 2 in the old section of Hanszen. (You got to it by going up the stairwell in section 2 or I believe going up the stairwell in section 1 (the old tower) to the thrid floor and going into a door into the attic. The B&P was part of the ‘hippie’ era of th late 60s and early 70s. Uusally had music and served a variety of beverages. Served a function similar to what the pub satsified a few years later. I do not remember when it moved across the quad to the basement of the new sectoin. When I was there, that was the Hanszen private lounge/library

  4. Pat Campbell says:

    When I joined the band in 1965, the L-shaped band room in the basement of Hanszen was legendary. It was claimed that the space-time discontinuity around the drum section arose from the fact that the drums could not hear the band in practice and vice-versa. I don’t know when the band moved from Hanszen to the basement of the RMC, but the room was acoustically tuned – just too small for the band that we were able to recruit. That’s the reason you see so much of the band outside.

    The switch from marching at 180 beats per minute to 130 is visually and musically striking.

  5. Grungy says:

    According to my records, the drum major for ’56 was Larry Burton, and the assistant was Tom Souther. The drum major for ’57 is listed as Eugene Swilley (and he’s also listed as in that role for ’60). I’ve got Eugene pencilled in as DM in ’58 and ’59 as well, lacking any other evidence. (I hadn’t read the newspaper clip before typing this.)
    So the person proudly posing in what is now an intramural field is either one of them, or someone that they just got to try on the uniform for the picture.

    It wouldn’t be the only time that a nonDM or even non-student would be a uniform model.

    I’d heard that the band practiced in Hanszen, but had assumed it was in the commons.
    Silly me.
    Is Mac holding a recorder in that photo?

    I’ve never seen the white hats before, nor the coats.
    Then again, I’ve never seen these photos before.
    I need to spend some quality time in the Woodson after finals are over.

    I like the plain-clothes tuba player.

    • marmer01 says:

      Interesting. Football coach Neely and band director McNeely. Kind of like registrar McCann and bursar McCants of the early days.

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

      In the drum major photo, is that Wiess (to the left) and Hanszen old section (to the right) in the background?

      • Grungy says:


      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

        But in those days, Wiess was North Hall and Hanszen (old) was West Hall.

      • Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

        I believe Weiss has always been called Weiss. If the photo is before 1959, then it is Weiss Hall and West Hall. (but I was calling them the names I know).

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

        I remember (HA!) that in 1952-1956, Weiss Hall was known as (1) North Hall, (2) Weiss Hall, and (3) the Jock Dorm, in that order.

    • Karl Benson says:

      That is Gene Swilley both in the solo shot and leading the band towards the stadium with Holmes McNeely marching alongside.

      • Anne Bond Berkley says:

        I agree. I was in the band from 1957 to 1960 and may see the back of my head in the picture in the band room. Far left. I played flute and piccolo. We marched to the stadium singing. “I want a beer just like the beer that buried dear old dad”

  6. Syd Polk says:

    One of my first professional music gigs was playing with Buddy Brock in 1981. That ad is awesome!

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